Davis Street Collective makes a bold debut with Sarah Kane's nonlinear and emotionally raw script 4.48 Psychosis. The play follows a nameless patient's battle with depression and suicide in the face of unsympathetic physicians and friends who slowly become more difficult to connect with.
Focussing less on perceived autobiographical aspects of the playwright's life, the cast places emphasis, instead, on the primal conflict between hope and hopelessness without being bogged down in the symptoms of depression and the loss of appetite and sex drive.
Although there is always a clear protagonist, whether in the form of Actress, Alexandra Werle, or Actor, Wes Chambers, or shared between the two, the antagonistic voice is more elusive. At times it is overbearing at others hardly perceptible, but it is always menacing, even in the hero's moments of solitude.
Especially creepy, is the fact that the antagonist can be distinguished from the hero less by his words than by the perpetual sneer on his face.
Eerie and grating, the performance oscillates between an interrogation and a hyper-personal confession, as it explores the depth of hopelessness and the depression that invariably comes with it. It rhythmically presents a stark contrast between the hero's desire to persevere and equally strong impulse to simply end the suffering.
The cast walks the road to depression through fragmentary scenes in which it is not entirely clear what is memory or the nightmares of the protagonist's soul. The costume design further breaks down the hero's identity as first the assailant then the hero then both of them don masks, turning the victim into his own torturer in a vicious dance.
The production never slips entirely into despair, however. As the play progresses, sounding the depth of the hero's anguish, the cries for redemption become more frequent and blunt. It finally reaches the point of accepting the chemical lobotomy of heavy medication in order to preserve life, not out of fear but out of hope of finding eventual emancipation from the “engine of sorcery.”
At another point, the protagonist even admits that for one hour and twelve minutes every day, from 4:48 till 6 in the morning, she is herself.
In the end, judgment is withheld as the hero continues searching for a reason, all the while realizing that understanding truth is what brings despair.
Director Alia Tavakolian emphasizes the emotional character of the hero's struggle through movement, such a memorable image of Actress pushing herself forward on a sheet, gaining no traction while reciting a litany of medications.
The Davis Street Collective's first production is emotionally charged, and It would be a great disservice to both the playwright and the play to overthink it, although that might be the initial reaction, especially when dealing with a writer with such a tragic story as Sarah Kane.